Dick Gaul, K2GMY, had obtained the names, call-signs, and addresses of all nine licensed Amateur Radio operators living in Benicia at that time for the purpose of starting a radio club. After he had contacted several of them, a Benicia police car stopped while Dick was working in his front yard, and the police officer asked if he was a ham. The officer was Mach Myovich, K6KAP.
Thus, the first unofficial meeting! It was 1979.
The next day Dick was talking to a Benicia Cable TV technician, Tom Schurkamp, WD6BBI who had stopped to work on a cable box on the sidewalk. He, too, was on the list of Benicia hams. Over the next few weeks there were several more unofficial sidewalk meetings there,
The first official meeting occurred in the kitchen of Meg Kelsey, KA6JLC and Bill Kelsey at 12 Alto Loma where Dick, Meg and Bill; and Betsey Haley, KA6BPR scribbled out a few objectives of the club and scheduled the next meeting in the kitchen of Betsey and Ray Haley, KA6DJO at 940 West K Street. There the Constitution, the By-laws, and the goals of the club were established.
Specifically, the club was formed to help city, county, and state authorities to relay messages in times of emergency.
On March 7, 1979 the first open meeting was conducted at the Youth Activity Center at 150 East K Street. It was announced to the public that all were welcome to attend. Eleven citizens became members that night; eight licensed radio amateurs, including Mike Kelsey, KA6BER, John Rich, KA6DJN, and Paul Coonradt, one other interested adult and two Mary Farmar Elementary School students, Brian Gaul and Steven Gaul.
The members approved the organizational structure of the club, and the first slate of officers was elected. Dick Gaul, K2GMY was elected as the first BARC president. Later in the evening, they practiced telegraph key exercises for the benefit of those members who were not yet hams.
Soon thereafter, the club actively participated in simulated emergency training exercises to gain readiness in the event that they might be called upon to assist.
In 1980 they held their first mid-summer two-day round-the-clock training exercise out in a natural setting where they had to improvise power generation, antenna erection, and whatever else was necessary to communicate in a hostile environment. They have been doing this annually since then.
On Mar 10th, 1981, BARC became an official ARRL affiliated Club. That year they started donating complete sets of technical books published by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to the Benicia Public Library and Benicia High School.
In 1982 they started training classes for those who expressed an interest in becoming an Amateur Radio operator. These classes included radio theory and Morse code proficiency. These classes continue to be scheduled periodically even now.
Additionally, they volunteered their services to the city every year during the Torchlight Parades, Historical Runs, Christmas Parades, Blessings of the Fleet, and peddler’s Fairs.
Radio stations were set up many times in public areas, including the Clock Tower, the Benicia State Recreation Area the Benicia Middle School, and the State Capitol Building so that Benicia’s citizens could learn about this valuable resource; and actually talk on the radio to hams around the world.
In 1983, Dave Autrey, KJ7OQ established contact with a station out of THIS WORLD, when he demonstrated the club’s ability to talk to a ham on the Space Shuttle, astronaut Dr. Owen Gerriott, W5LFL.
The club participated in various joint exercises with the American Red Cross, Solano County Sheriff’s Office, and Travis Air Force Base to test readiness in the event of floods, large-scale disasters, and aircraft mishaps.
Ross Sagun, AD6OE received a letter of appreciation from the Department of Defense for the club’s continued side-by-side celebration of Armed Forces Day with our U.S. Forces at Skaggs Island in operating their high-powered military radio equipment and sending messages to our troops around the world.
In 1984, club member Meg Kelsey, (KA6BER; Richard Chan WB6ABE; Jim Clarke, KB6SHT, and Dave Autrey KJ7OQ were finalizing plans for the first Emergency Operations Center (EOC) amateur radio station. It was to be set up in the basement of the Gymnasium next to the police station.
On January 12, 1985 club members met to schedule a simulated emergency test. But one week later, on January 19, 1985 the club was called upon by the Benicia police Department to augment their communications and traffic control efforts when a fatal molten-sulfur truck accident on the Benicia bridge crippled Bay Area traffic at rush-hour and the rest of the night.
At the wreckage were Art Carpenter, KA6HZX: and Jack Cooper, KG6LV. Others serving that night were Sue Cooper, N6LEU; Meg, KA6JLC; Dick, K2GMY; Betsey, KA6BPR; and Tom Carrillo, WB6UUQ. Dave, KJ7OQ was the Radio Emergency Coordinator. The club was recognized for their efforts by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
In September, l985 the club was involved in the Mexico City Earthquake; and in February, 1986 with the Solano County Floods. On April 4, l987 the EOC radio room in the gymnasium opened after the considerable efforts of all the members.
After several years, the EOC radio room was moved to the building on the other side of City Hall, next to the U. S. Post Office. It remained in operation there for years until the members moved it to its third and current location in the downtown Fire Station.
When the new fire house was being planned, the merits and contributions of the Benicia Amateur Radio Club had been demonstrated over and over. The radio room, power and cable runs, antennas, and equipment were integrated into the final fire house configuration.
After 9/11, the Benicia Fire Dept created the Benicia Emergency Response Team (BERT) to train its residents in preparing for and responding to disasters. BARC seeing the value they could add to this group of citizen responders, extended an offer of partnership to provide communications following disasters in the many Benicia neighbirhoods. Many BERT members obtained their ham licenses and many Hams became BERT members by taking the BERT training. By 2004, combining BERT and BARC drills and training exercises became the norm.
In the decade and a half since 9/11, BARC reinvented itself. With Art Mayoff, AB6HB as its “new era” president, a close-knit group of Public Safety minded Hams took leadership rolls and redoubled its efforts as partners with the Benicia Fire Department and Solano County’s Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS, formerly called RACES).
Starting around 2002 and continuing through 2015, Chief Ken Hanley, Chief Gene Gantt, Deputy Chief Mike Tessier, Division Chief Tim Winfield, Chief Steve Vucurivich, Fire Marshal Ray Iverson, Division Chief Nick Thomas, and Chief Jim Lydon provided years of financial backing by purchasing two new UHF FM repeaters, repeater antennas and a digipeater for packet; renovating the EOC radio station with new furniture; five VHF/UHF radios including digital voice, data and Packet, and all the requisite interfaces; and four deployable GoKits. Designed and built by Art Mayoff, we have three VHF/UHF GoKits on wheels and one HF/VHF/UHF GoKit all with tripods, antennas, 100Ah GelCell batteries and solar panels.
In 2004, Len Corbaley KG6SYN, now W6LHC, assumed the role of Station Manager.
In 2005 a Yahoo User Group was created to keep local hams informed of local activities in the Club. https://groups.yahoo.com/groups/beniciaarc
A 2014 grant from the American Automobile Association (AAA), provided funding for a Deluxe Buddipole all-band transportable HF antenna and 18 ft tripod and all-band antenna analyzer.
Training classes, drills and exercises designed by AB6HB were conducted multiple times a year, often partnering with BERT provided BARC’s membership with additional skills needed to serve our community.
Ham Radio training classes were conducted on an irregular basis in Benicia but its teaching staff often participated as guest instructors at the Salvation Army Ham Radio training center in Concord, CA. Exam sessions have been conducted quarterly for the past 15 years.
In 2015, BARC’s Volunteer Examiner team (VE’s) began providing One-Day Self-Study Ham Radio licensing classes in Benicia and throughout the Bay Area with amazing results. A pass rate exceeding 90% is typical with this new program. Get-On-the-Air classes follow Benicia based One-Day classes to guide new licensees on how to properly use and operate their radios.
In 2015 a new URL was generated and authored by AA6AM, with Bob Beard, KG6FPZ as webmaster at www.Benicia ARC.com.
By October of 2016, BARC had conducted its fifth in a series of classes in Benicia, resulting in a total of over 300 new hams and a team of over 30 Volunteer Examiners and Logistic Support Personnel.
Edited: Oct 1, 2016